Two of the most dominant Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) champions look to turn aside rising challengers this Saturday (Feb. 8, 2020) when Jon Jones and Valentina Shevchenko defend their respective titles against Dominick Reyes and Katlyn Chookagian in UFC 247’s main- and co-main events. Also on tap are a clash between Heavyweight bruisers Juan Adams and Justin Tafa and what a could be a terrific Featherweight scrap pitting Dan Ige against Mirsad Bektic.
Four UFC 247 “Prelims” undercard bouts have been cobbled together for the ESPN lineup (check out the ESPN+ portion here). Let’s check them out while we can:
185 lbs.: Trevin Giles vs. Antonio Arroyo
Trevin Giles (11-2) kicked off his UFC run with impressive knockouts of James Bochnovic and Antonio Braga Neto before taking a year off to pursue a career in law enforcement. Sailing hasn’t been quite as smooth since, as he succumbed to the submission skills of Zak Cummings and Gerald Meerschaert during his 2019 campaign.
His 10 finishes are split evenly between knockouts and submissions.
A decision win on “Contender Series: Brazil” wasn’t enough to earn Antonio Arroyo (9-3) a UFC contract, but his subsequent submission of Stephen Regman on the vanilla version of the series did the trick. He debuted in Nov. 2019 against fellow Brazilian Andre Muniz, to whom he suffered his first defeat since 2017.
He is the taller man by two inches.
Giles’ fight with Meerschaert ranks among the more baffling gameplans I can recall. That’s because rather than exploit “GM3’s” leaky striking defense, Giles happily engaged him on the ground and wound up going to sleep for it. I still think he’ll win this, as his takedown prowess gives him the means to recreate Muniz’s successful efforts, but it does raise the possibility of Giles trying to one-up Arroyo in the Brazilian’s preferred long-range battle and getting kicked in the head.
So long as Giles can keep Arroyo on the back foot, he’s got the skills to win this comfortably. Perhaps against my better judgment, I’m going to say he keeps his head on straight and doesn’t make things difficult for himself. Stronger boxing and regular takedowns win Giles a wide decision.
Prediction: Giles via unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Lauren Murphy vs. Andrea Lee
Lauren Murphy (11-4) — the former Invicta Bantamweight champion — started her Octagon career 1-3 before joining TUF 26 as a Flyweight. Though she lost in the opening round to eventual winner Nicco Montano, she went on to win two of three in her new weight class, including an Oct. 2019 knockout of Mara Romero Borella.
She’ll give up 2.5 inches of reach to “KGB.”
Andrea Lee (11-3) entered Invicta as a red-hot prospect, only for Roxanne Modafferi and Sarah D’Alelio to take advantage of her grappling inexperience. She put the losses behind her to win her next seven, including three in the Octagon, before dropping a narrow split decision to Joanne Calderwood at UFC 242.
Three of her four submission victories have come by armbar.
Had these two fought during Lee’s time in Invicta or early in “KGB’s” Octagon career, Murphy would have been a live dog. Though she struggles to impose her grinding grappling assault against top opposition, she could very well have shut down her dynamic foe against the cage or from guard. Considering Lee’s improved wrestling and ability to get up once taken down, though, that window has closed. Murphy will have all sorts of problems keeping hold of Lee, leaving her at the mercy of a rangier, more effective kickboxer.
Lee isn’t immune to being taken down, of course, but I don’t see Murphy doing enough in semi-dominant positions to offset the damage Lee can do on the feet. Lee’s speed and length carry her to a competitive decision victory,
Prediction: Lee via unanimous decision
Alex Morono vs. Kalinn Williams
Andrew Richardson here filling in for Patrick Stumberg for the following bout ...
Nine-fight UFC veteran Alex Morono (17-5) has proven himself a pretty consistent action fighter. The Texan is not the most athletic or technically masterful fighter to ever grace the Octagon, but he’s got plenty of tricks up his sleeve and is plenty tough. In fact, Morono really seems to have hit his stride, having won three straight bouts ahead of this match up.
Filling in for an injured Dhiego Lima is “The Oxfighter,” who’s built up a solid record for himself and finished five of his nine victories. Kalinn Williams (9-1) has a good mix of submissions and knockouts on his record, but this will be a serious step up in competition for the Michigan-native.
Morono is not an easy debut opponent. Even when faced with foes with an athleticism advantage over him, Moreno is usually able to turn the tide with raw intensity and determination — and that’s ignoring his jiu-jitsu black belt and improved punching power. Meanwhile, Williams has defeated just four opponents with winning records, and all but one of those victories came via decision.
It seems likely that he needs to catch Morono to win, and “The Great White” is too damn tough to fall over easily.
Prediction: Alex Morono via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Miles Johns vs. Mario Bautista
Miles Johns (10-0) — the LFA Bantamweight champion — failed to finish Richie Santiago on “Contender Series,” but impressed enough to earn a contract anyway. His Octagon debut saw him take on fellow unbeaten prospect Cole Smith in a back-and-forth ground battle, from which Johns emerged with a split decision.
“Chapo” faces a six-inch reach disadvantage.
Mario Bautista (7-1) stepped up on short notice to face the red-hot Cory Sandhagen in his Octagon debut, tapping to an armbar late in the first round. His sophomore effort went a bit better, as he successfully out-brawled Korean bruiser Jin Soo Son in San Antonio to win “Fight of the Night.”
He has finished five professional opponents, three of them by submission.
Bautista’s grit and aggression are undeniable, but this is looks like a seriously rough out. His wrestling struggles with Son bode ill against a takedown artist of Johns’ caliber, and I’m not convinced he can keep Johns at bay despite the reach advantage. He’s inevitably going to end up on his back, and he’ll find Johns a fair bit more difficult to dislodge than Son.
This is Johns’ fight to lose ... so long as he doesn’t fall into a slugfest and neglect his wrestling, he should be able to cruise to victory with strong top control. “Chapo” holds his own on the feet and dominates on the mat to make it 2-0 in the Octagon.
Prediction: Johns via unanimous decision
Whether or not you think they’ll be in competitive fights, getting to watch two of the best to ever do it ply their craft sounds worth a watch. See you Saturday, Maniacs!
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 247 fight card this weekend, starting with the Fight Pass/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+.
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